Jews And Communism In South Africa – Part 2

This book appears to have been written for a Jewish readership. Dr Shimoni was born in South Africa to parents from Lithuania, but settled in Israel where he lectured at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and where he gained post-graduate degrees in Jewish history. While bitterly contemptuous of South Africa under the apartheid system, Dr Shimoni in effect identifies with the concept of geographically based ethnic groupings that was the basis of the South African system. This kind of irony, not to say hypocrisy, is typical of Jews opposed to racism in Europe, the US or South Africa. Two extended quotes from the book will serve as a summary of the situation some decades ago.

Dr Shimoni writes of  “… the extraordinary salience of Jewish individuals in the white opposition to the regime of apartheid. Throughout this period Jewish names kept appearing in every facet of the struggle : amongst reformist liberals; in the radical Communist opposition; in the courts, whether as defendants or as counsel for the defense; in the lists of bannings and amongst those who fled the country to evade arrest. Their prominence was particularly marked in the course of the Treason Trial which occupied an important place in the news media throughout the second half of the 1950 s. This trial began in December 1956, when 156 people were arrested on charges of treason in the form of a conspiracy to overthrow the state by violence and to replace it with a state based on Communism. Twenty-three of those arrested were Whites, more than half of them Jews. They included Yetta Barenblatt, Hymie Barsel, Lionel (Rusty) Bernstein, Leon Levy, Norman Levy, Sydney Shall, Joe Slovo, Ruth (First) Slovo, Sonia Bunting, Lionel Forman, Isaac Horvitch, Ben Turok, Jacqueline Arenstein, Errol Shanley, Dorothy Shanley. To top it all, at one stage in the trial the defense counsel was led by Israel Maisels, while the prosecutor was none other than Oswald Pirow. The juxtaposition was striking : Maisels, the prominent Jewish communal leader, defending those accused of trying to overthrow White supremacy; Pirow, the extreme Afrikaner Nationalist and former Nazi sympathizer, defending White supremacy.”  (pp. 227-8).

“In this extended five-year period between the emergence of violent opposition and its effective suppression, the prominent involvement of individual Jews was in the public eye more than ever before. This was even more so than in the dramatic circumstances of the Rivonia arrests. On 11 July 1963 the police raided the home of Arthur Goldreich in Rivonia near Johannesburg, where it captured, by surprise, the leadership cadre of the Umkonto we Sizwe underground. Seventeen people were arrested. Five of those arrested were Whites, all of them Jews. They were : Arthur Goldreich, Lionel Bernstein, Hilliard Festenstein, Dennis Goldberg and Bob Hepple. [There was an] overwhelming impression that Jews were in the forefront of the White radicals who were trying to overthrow the system of White supremacy in South Africa. When the secret African Resistance Movement (ARM) was crushed during 1964, it again became evident that many Jews were involved. One of its founders was identified as Monty Berman, others were Adrian Leftwich and Bertram (Baruch) Hirson. Among those who were associated with ARM were Neville Rubin and Michael Schneider [and] others implicated were Frederick and Rhoda Prager, Raymond Eisenstein and Hugh Lewin.” (pp. 232-3).

Dr Shimoni records with obvious distaste the wording of an Afrikaans letter in a newspaper criticizing this fundamentally hypocritical proclivity of Jews : “They (the Jews) themselves are the most exclusive apartheid people, yet they exert themselves here for integration. While Jews themselves have shown no intention to integrate or merge with the African masses, they have been hyper-critical of mainstream whites who are reluctant to follow this route, criticizing churches with segregationist policies, while their synagogues have remained ethnically 100% Jewish.”

Source : Jews and Zionism : the South African Experience (1910-67), by Dr Gideon Shimoni (Oxford University Press, 1980).

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